Tag: Basque (page 1 of 39)

March 21, 1941: Birth of composer Sara Soto

Most of you reading this will be aware of the importance of music in Basque culture and we could quite easily dedicate an entire blog to Basque music alone. Today’s Flashback Friday story concerns an interesting figure in the world of Basque music that is sometimes overlooked in studies of the topic. Sara Soto Gabiola was born in Gorliz, Bizkaia, on March 21, 1941, although her family moved to Irun, Gipuzkoa, when she was very young.

Sara Soto Gabiola (1941-1999).

Sara Soto Gabiola (1941-1999).

She suffered from a muscular illness as a child, which limited her ability to move around easily, and she found an escape from the physical limitation imposed on her by developing a keen appreciation for the arts: she drew and painted and was an avid reader. But in was in music that she found her true métier. Although she did undertakle some formal studies of harmony, she was largeñy self-taught.

Her first compositions, influenced strongly by the Basque artistic collective Ez Dok Amairu and in particular Lourdes Iriondo and Xabier Lete (with whom she established a lasting friendship), she started composing songs for accompaniment by the guitar. Lete wrote the lyrics for several of her compositions, including the popular “Kanta Kanta,” recorded by Maria Ostiz in the late 1960s, and Iriondo recorded her song “Maitasun honek zugan dirudi” in the mid-1970s.

In the late 1970s the renowned sculptor, artist, and all-round Basque renaissance figure Nestor Basterretxea commissioned her to compose an accompanying soundtrack for what would become arguably his most famous work, the Serie Cosmogonica Vasca (Basque Cosmogonic Series), today housed in the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum.  The result was the choral work “Karraxis,” based on verses by Basterretxea, which premiered in 1979 in Donostia-San Sebastián with the Ametsa Choir from Irun and some members of the Orfeón Donostiarra choir as well. In the mid-1980s she worked with Basterretxea again to create the “Cripta,” a piece for the organ inspired by the artist’s murals for the crypt in the Sanctuary of Arantzazu.  Although these were her best known works, she composed many more choral and organ pieces and left a profound mark on Basque music. She died in Irun in June 1999.

March 9, 1980: First Basque autonomous parliamentary elections following death of Franco

Logo of the Basque parliament, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Logo of the Basque parliament, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Although a Basque parliament was envisaged as part of the 1936 Statute of Autonomy, the outbreak of the civil war meat that it never materialized as such. With Franco’s victory in the war and the dictatorship that followed, it was not until after his death in 1975 that a new statute was passed in 1979, leading to the holding of the first Basque autonomous parliamentary elections in the modern era, on March 9, 1980. This led to the first legislature of the parliament, between 1980 and 1984.

The Basque parliament. Photo by Iker Merodio, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Basque parliament. Photo by Iker Merodio, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Today the Basque parliament–Eusko Legebiltzarra in Basque–serves as the main legislative body of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country, made up of three provinces in Hegoalde or the Southern Basque Country: Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa.  It is made up of seventy-five representatives (twenty-five from each province, despite the significant differences in population size among them)

March 4, 2008: The “non” discovery of the historic trawler, the Nabarra

In March 1937, one of the most famous engagements during the Spanish Civil War in the Basque Country took place: the Battle of Cape Matxitxako.  On March 4, 2008, a team of marine scientists from AZTI thought it had discovered the wreck of one of the Basque trawlers that took part in that encounter, the Nabarra, off the coast of Bermeo, Bizkaia.

The port of Bermeo today. Photo by Euskalduna, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The port of Bermeo today. Photo by Euskalduna, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

According to its investigation, the characteristics of the wreck the team initially came across matched those of the Nabarra, but it could not be totally sure without further dives, carried out by members of the Kresala association.  More tests were undertaken and the Basque government even announced that all the indications did indeed seem to point to the wreck being the Nabarra.  However, after fully checking the site, at a June 2008 press conference it was confirmed that the wreck was not that of the Nabarra, but instead that of a Nazi German merchant vessel, the Hochheimer, which had been sunk by a British submarine in May 1944.

The mystery of the Nabarra‘s whereabouts thus remains.

February 28, 1513: Twelve cannons added to the Gipuzkoa coat of arms

The origins of coats of arms go back to the surcoat, a garment worn by knights over their armor and emblazoned with their personal “arms” or design. In time, these arms became identified with larger entities like a whole noble family, a royal house, town, province, and so on. In effect, these coats of arms became easily identifiable emblems by which to represent such an entity, a kind of logo. On February 28, 1513, Queen Joanna of Castile, Joanna the Mad (!), conceded Gipuzkoa the right to incorporate twelve cannons on its coat of arms.

The coat of arms of Gipuzkoa, 1513-1979, featuring the monarch and twelve cannons. Image by Miguillen, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The coat of arms of Gipuzkoa, 1513-1979, featuring the monarch and twelve cannons. Image by Miguillen, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1512, Gipuzkoan troops, in the service of her father, Ferdinand, and the crown of Castile and Aragon had taken part  in its conquest of Navarre. The Gipuzkoans fought the Navarrese at the Battles of Belate and Elizondo. During the war, the Gipuzkoans took twelve French cannons that had been used by the Navarrese in the siege of Iruñea-Pamplona.

The coat of arms of Gipuzkoa, 1979-present. Image by HansenBCN, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The coat of arms of Gipuzkoa, 1979-present. Image by HansenBCN, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Between 1513 and 1979, then, those twelve cannons, representing Gipuzkoan service to the Kingdom of Castile and Aragon and the military defeat of the Kingdom of Navarre featured on the province’s official coat of arms. In 1979, though, by a vote of the provincial council of Gipuzkoa, it was decided to remove the cannons. The reason given was that they represented a glorification of war and that the symbol was humiliating for Navarre. At the same time, it was also decided to withdraw the figure of a monarch being crowned (thought to represent either Alfonso VIII or Henry IV of Castile).

The legend Fidelisima Bardulia, numquam superada means “Most loyal Bardulia, never overcome” (Bardulia being an ancient Roman term for a region in the north of the Iberian Peninsula that derived from the Roman term for a tribe of people, the Varduli, who inhabited present-day Gipuzkoa).  The trees are Taxus baccata, a conifer known in English as the common yew, while the figures holding clubs represent the aforementioned Varduli.

February 16, 1980: Inauguration of Vitoria-Gasteiz Airport

Aena's official logo for Vitoria Airport, designed by Javier Mariscal. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Aena’s official logo for Vitoria Airport, designed by Javier Mariscal. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Many of you will be familiar with Bilbao Airport, based in Loiu, and you may also have arrived in the Basque Country via Biarritz Pays Basque Airport or the smaller Donostia-San Sebastián airport, based in Hondarribia, but did you know that Vitoria-Gasteiz is also served by an airport, in the nearby town of Foronda? Vitoria-Gasteiz Airport was inaugurated on February 16, 1980.

Antonov An-225 airplane at Vitoria Gasteiz Foronda airport. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Antonov An-225 airplane at Vitoria Gasteiz Foronda airport. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Vitoria-Gasteiz Airport is located some 5 miles from the city center. In order to build the airport, the village of Otaza located at the end of the runway had to be demolished. The first plane to land at Vitoria-Gasteiz Airport was a Dassault Mystère fighter bomber of the Spanish Armed Forces that flew from Madrid. The first plane to take off was a charter flight to Palma de Mallorca and in April that same year the first regular Madrid-Vitoria-Gasteiz flight was established.

The check-in area at Vitoria-Gasteiz Airport. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The check-in area at Vitoria-Gasteiz Airport. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Since 1993, the airport has  specialized in cargo services and is currently the fourth main cargo hub in Spain behind Madrid Barajas, Barcelona, and Zaragoza. It has enjoyed sporadic passenger services, with Irish airline Ryanair operating two regular flights to London and Dublin between 2005 and 2007, and returning to Vitoria-Gasteiz Airport in 2016, initially with year-round services to Bergamo and Tenerife, and now also offering flights to Seville and Cologne/Bonn.

Check out the official website here.

 

 

February 9, 1918: Birth of raquetista Irene Ibaibarriaga

Arguably the most emblematic sport of the Basques is pelota in its many varieties, one of which, Jai-Alai, was especially popular in the United States at the close of the twentieth century. Another variety, played with tennis racquets by women, was also popular in the twentieth century, from the 1910s to the 1980s. One of the leading raquetistas of her generation, Irene Ibaibarriaga Ormaetxea, was born in Ermua, Bizkaia, on February 9, 1918.

She learned the sport in nearby Eibar, one of the strongholds of Basque pelota and at the age of fifteen she moved to Madrid, where her older sister Pili played professionally, to begin a career in the sport. She was offered a contract to play professionally in the Americas but turned down the opportunity and, despite her career suffering as a result of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), she still managed to make a living from the sport, playing in tournaments in Valencia, Barcelona, and later Donostia, often playing doubles with her sister. Later in her career she suffered a serious injury when a ball damaged her ear. She subsequently retired from the sport.

In 2013, a special tribute was paid to her on the occasion of the 7th Women’s Pelota Day held in Irura, Gipuzkoa. Ibaibarriaga died in 2014 at the age of ninety-six.

Check out Olatz Gonzalez Abrisketa’s Basque Pelota: A Ritual, An Aesthetic.

January 16, 1843: Birth of Blessed Rafaela Ybarra

Rafaela Ybarra Arambarri was born on January 16, 1843 in Bilbao into a comfortable middle-class family. In 1861 she married José de Vilallonga and went on to have seven children (although two died in infancy). She was devout and a visit to Lourdes in 1883 resulted in getting over a serious illness. In 1890, with the permission of her husband, she made private vows to be chaste and fully obedient to God. Coinciding with the spectacular nineteenth-century industrial take-off and urban boom in Bilbao, and the social and demographic problems these changes provoked, she organized various welfare institutions for women and children in Bilbao. In 1894, along with three others, she founded a religious order to help all the poor children of Bilbao, opening a home to help the less fortunate in 1899 (a year after her husband had passed away). In 1900, after struggling with a long illness, she herself died. Shortly thereafter, in 1901, the order she had helped found, the Angeles Custodios (Guardian Angels), received diocesan approval.

Rafaela Ybarra Arambarri (1843-1900). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Rafaela Ybarra Arambarri (1843-1900). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1929 a beatification process opened and in 1952 she became titled as a Servant of God. Then, in 1970 she was named as Venerable and in 1984 she was ultimately beatified.  A process is currently taking place by which she is being considered for sainthood.

December 9, 1895: Birth of Dolores Ibarruri, “La Pasionaria”

Dolores Ibarruri Gomez, better known as “La Pasionaria” (the passionflower, an early pseudonym), was born on December 9, 1895. She became one of the leading figures in the Civil War of 1936-1939 and gained fame for her use of the slogan “No pasarán!” (They shall not pass!).

Dolores Ibarruri Gomez in 1936. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Dolores Ibarruri Gomez in 1936. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

She was born in Gallarta, Bizkaia, into a mining family and, although she had been encouraged to train to be a teacher, she was forced to leave school at fifteen because her parents could not afford any further education. She subsequently did a variety of jobs including being a seamstress, housemaid, and waitress. In 1915 she married the labor union activist Julián Ruiz Gabiña, and got involved in left-wing politics. The couple joined the Communist Party of Spain and Ibarruri became a member of the provincial committee of its Basque branch. Over the next few years, as well as raising a family, she also rose up through the party ranks and in 1930 was appointed to its central committee. The family then relocated to Madrid where she became a prominent leftist activist in the turbulent decade of the 1930s, taking part in strikes and demonstrations and gaining a reputation as a stirring orator and committed anti-Fascist.

La Pasionaria in 1978. Photo by Nemo. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

La Pasionaria in 1978. Photo by Nemo. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

When the Civil War broke out in 1936 she gained international renown for a series of radio broadcasts against the military uprising, employing inspirational terms like the famed “They shall not pass!” as well as “Better to die standing up than to live kneeling down!” With the definitive fall of the Republic, however, she fled the country in 1939, first to Paris and then on to the Soviet Union. While in Moscow, she worked on propaganda radio broadcasts against the Franco regime in Spain and in 1942 she also became secretary-general of the Spanish Communist Party-in-exile. She ceded that position in 1960, retiring from active politics at the age of sixty-five and accepting the honorary post of president of the party.

Following Franco’s death in 1975, she returned to Madrid in 1977, appearing at a Communist general election rally in Bilbao less than two weeks later in front of more than thirty thousand people. However, she subsequently retreated from active involvement in politics. She died in November 1989 at the age of ninety-three.

November 24, 1912: False fire alarm leads to multiple deaths in Bilbao theater stampede

On November 24, 1912, forty-six people, almost all of them children, died in the Ensanche Circus Theater of Bilbao as the result of a stampede of spectators attempting to flee the building. Someone had shouted out a fire alarm, which ultimately proved to be false.

The Circus Theater, located close to what is today the Plaza Elíptica, had been constructed in 1895 on the site of what had been a circus. While dedicated mainly to popular entertainment shows it was also a sports venue, and by the second decade of the twentieth century it was also showing movies.

On Sunday, November 24, 1912, the theater schedule included a continuous screening of movies between 3:00 pm and midnight, at prices accessible to people of all social classes and children old enough to go to the movies on their own.  Shortly after 6:00 pm a voice shouted out “fire!” This resulted in widespread panic as spectators attempted to flee the packed theater, only to encounter two of the three emergency exits locked. In total, forty-four children and two adults died in the stampede. Funerals for the victims, at which a reported forty thousand people attended, were held on November 27 and all expenses were covered by the Bilbao city council.

The theater itself was demolished in 1914 by official order on account of not fulfilling the required safety norms. In 1916, Bilbao city council constructed a mausoleum on the site where the victims had been buried.

Sources

Julio Arrieta, “Cuarenta y cuatro ataúdes blancos,” El Correo, November 18, 2012.

Una falsa alarma desembocó en tragedia,” Conoce Bilbao con Esme (blog), November 24, 2018.

Kerri Lesh presents at the 117th American Anthropological Association annual meeting

Photo credit: Mariann Vaczi

Last week, Kerri Lesh returned from presenting at the 117th American Anthropological Association‘s annual meeting in San Jose, California. Her presentation titled “Size (and Shape) Matters: Creating Value with the Basque Language through Wine, Cider, and Font” illustrated the value of using language in its form and content for marketing gastronomic products. Kerri was delighted to present alongside scholars such as Martha Karrebӕk, Kathleen Riley, Richard Wilk, and Chelsie Yount-André in their panel “Food, Money, and Morals: Semiotic Reconfigurations of Value.”

Kerri is a member of the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition (SAFN) as well as a member of the Culture and Agriculture groups that are part of the larger AAA. Amongst attending other events and speakers, Kerri attended the SAFN meeting where Eric Holt-Giménez, Executive Director of Food First, was the keynote.  Eric is of Basque and Puerto Rican heritage and grew up milking cows and pitching hay in Point Reyes, CA, where he learned that putting food on the table is hard work. After studying rural education and biology at the University of Oregon and Evergreen State College, he traveled through Mexico and Central America, where he was drawn to the simple life of small-scale farmers. He is the editor of the Food First book Food Movements Unite! Strategies to Transform Our Food Systems; co-author of Food Rebellions! Crisis and the Hunger for Justice with Raj Patel and Annie Shattuck; and author of the book Campesino a Campesino: Voices from Latin America’s Farmer to Farmer Movement for Sustainable Agriculture and of many academic, magazine and news articles.

 

Kerri has the pleasure of meeting Eric as the SAFN/Culture and Agriculture reception where Kerri and Daniel Shattuck were presenting Basque wine and Italian olive oil tastings. Three txakolinak were served in addition to the olive oil, both demonstrating the importance of culture in the development of taste and terroir. 

Photo Credit: Mark Anthony Arceño

If you like txakoli as much as everyone at the reception did, stay tuned for a piece on Academic Minute and NPR podcast where Kerri provides food for thought on this Basque beverage.

Photo Credit: Mark Anthony Arceño

 

 

 

Older posts